Waymo came out with a new ad today that presents a cheerful, very Google-esque look at how the self-driving company plans to eventually make money: ride-hailing, delivery, trucking, and logistics. The ad comes on the heels of the announcement that the Alphabet-owned company has, for the first time, raised $2.25 billion in outside investment.
As self-driving technology continues its (very) slow-moving march toward commercialization, Waymo wants to remind you that autonomous vehicles are more than just a futuristic concept; they will eventually be available for us to use. What the ad avoids, though, is any mention of the likely limited availability of autonomous vehicles for many years to come.
More than anything, the ad is a glimpse into one possible future for Waymo’s vehicles: a world in which you can summon a fully driverless Waymo vehicle to take you to where you need to go, or an autonomous delivery van to bring you your takeout order or dry cleaning. It also presents a vision for other businesses that may want to ship freight with Waymo Via, the company’s newly named trucking venture.
“This is the Waymo driver.”
“This is the Waymo driver,” the ad concludes. “A driver that is reimagining transportation for all of us.”
It’s a stark comparison to Waymo’s current situation, in which around 1,500 residents of the towns surrounding Phoenix, Arizona, are using the company’s autonomous minivans to take short trips within a 100-square-mile zone. Waymo’s Class 8 tractor-trailers have been tested in Arizona, California, and Georgia, and are currently being tested on highways in Texas and New Mexico. The delivery vans shown in the ad have yet to be shown off or tested in any way.
Tellingly, there’s something missing from this ad. Back in 2018, Waymo revealed that it was exploring ways to sell self-driving cars to customers as personally owned vehicles. The company stayed mum about that idea for the next two years until a recent podcast interview with Waymo CEO John Krafcik revealed more about what that could eventually look like.
Krafcik said he envisioned launching a subscription service, in which people could take out a self-driving car as their personal vehicle for a designated amount of time. Eventually, subscribers would return the vehicle to Waymo, which would then reintegrate it back into its fleet to be used for ride-hailing or deliveries.
But that idea is still in gestation, which explains why it isn’t mentioned in this ad.